With department under fire, Westover announces new police chief

Monongalia

WESTOVER, W.Va. – Following a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the City of Westover, its police department, two of its officers and its former police chief; fallout from the lawsuit, including debate over the department’s bodycam policy; an investigation into the alleged actions of one of the department’s officers, which former chief Richard Panico told 12 News in an exclusive interview, partially led to his resignation, the City has named a new police chief.

12 News originally reported the appointment of the new chief earlier this week.

Friday, a news release from Mayor Dave Johnson again announced the appointment of former West Virginia State Police trooper Joe Adams.

Adams, a 25-year police veteran, was selected after “careful review of seven applicants,” the release said.

“We’re excited to have someone with Adams’ professionalism and very hands-on, proactive approach to policing as chief. His proven record of leadership and diverse policing experience provides the right mix of skills and expertise to move the department forward,” Mayor Johnson said.

Adams currently lives in Morgantown with his wife and daughter.

“After retiring from the State Police in 2015 as a senior investigator, I took a job working for the West Virginia Supreme Court managing criminal dispositions. When I saw the position with Westover open, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I enjoy serving as a police officer. Safeguarding our community is extremely rewarding work and it’s what I’m trained for and meant to do,” Adams said.

In the release, Adams said that his first priorities as chief will involve evaluating the department’s community policing capacities.

“In general, I expect police department personnel to be professional, courteous and helpful. We are here to serve the community and that is the priority. My focus is on immediate response to calls for service, ensuring each officer has the skills to properly manage the situation and work toward issue resolution, positive progressive community interaction, and community safety through crime prevention,” he said.

“I can’t emphasize enough my view that policing is relationship driven. We must maintain proper relationships with law enforcement at every level. This includes information and resource sharing at local, state and federal levels. We cannot effectively function without continuous coordination and cooperation,” Adams said.

“However, the most important relationship is that with our community. Policing is a shared responsibility between our department and the residents it serves. When someone has an issue, residents must trust that we will listen, respond, and enforce the law equally. All of the resources in the world are useless if the community is hesitant to provide information to us or to communicate with us. I want to make it known that my office is always open for feedback,” Adams said.

Also in the release, Mayor Johnson added that the selection of Adams involved input from a number of city council members.

“We have a police committee comprised of three councilors that worked hard during the hiring process. These persons were Edie Viola, Steve Andryzcik, and Steve Lawrence. Special thanks to each of these councilors for their service and our city council overall for supporting the committee’s recommendation,” he said. “We’re very excited about working with Chief Adams and the future of the police department.”

Adams began his term as Chief of Police on Thursday, October 22, the city said. He replaces interim chief John Morgan.

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